Trailers really are short films — there’s an art to making them. They’re hors d’oeuvres. If we couldn’t dine out on a classic, we could snack on brief glimpses of it: A spooked horse and a rickety wagon against the backdrop of burning Atlanta, Scarlett and the white portico of Tara, Rhett carrying his flailing wife to bed up an improbably long red staircase. As dated as the movie itself, the trailer was a satisfying glimpse of what our endangered movie palace had been built to contain.
That full-color trailer was crafted in 1939, arguably the golden year of movies, when stylized Deco letters swung in from the right and popped over scenes of a promised film: THE LAUGHS ARE MONSTROUS! (Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein), MIGHTIEST ADVENTURE OF ALL TIME! (The Charge of the Light Brigade), SPECTACULAR! (almost anything not a comedy), in high-contrast black and white. Even though GWTW was one of Hollywood’s first full-length feature films shot entirely in color, its trailer stuck — but for the use of color — with the classic trailer formula: an establishing shot of name actors, a two-minute-thirty-eight second sound track, and the inevitable baritone announcer, “The most memorable event in the annals of motion pictures...”
GWTW’s original trailer currently boasts 68,361 hits, while a modern adaptation stands this morning at 1, 342,336. I’ve added one to each of these numbers. Remarkable! You don’t have to rent a movie palace to visit Tara anymore.